Want to add another cat or kitten into your family? It can be a complex and gradual process, but veterinarian and pet health advocate Dr. Aliya McCullough explains how to safely create feline friendships.
Before bringing a new cat home, make sure they’d be a great fit for your current cat. Adopting a cat with similar activity levels and traits is best. Older cats probably prefer low-energy, chill lifestyles and may hiss or swat at younger cats to tell them to back off.
Take your new cat to the vet before bringing them home to avoid spreading any contagious diseases. If your current cat works with a veterinary behaviorist, devise a game plan to have a successful meet and greet with your new cat.
Try to give each cat their own safe space at home that includes these items:
To avoid conflict and aggression, introduce your cats slowly, and respect the pace at which they choose to interact.
Before introducing your cats, feed them tasty canned food on opposite sides of a door two-to-three times per day as positive reinforcement. If you’d prefer to stick to their regular food, consider adding single ingredient, meat-based baby food, tuna water, oyster juice, deli meats, plain nonfat yogurt or cat treats to add value to the treat.
If food doesn’t motivate your cat, show positive reinforcement by playing with interactive toys or giving lots of pets.
Swap each cat’s bedding, scratching posts and beds every few days to get them used to each others’ scents. Letting each cat roam around the other one’s safe space solo can help, too. Or try wiping each cat’s head, jowls or face with a washcloth and leaving it in the other’s safe space.
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If your cat is more anxious than usual, it’s probably because of the new cat. Talk to your vet about anti-anxiety supplements. Alternatively (or additionally with your vet’s OK try using pheromones (aka chemical scents) to help relax your pets.
After your cats have gotten used to the other’s scent, introduce them through a gate or while holding them. By keeping them separated, you prevent any injuries or aggressive outbursts. Remember to take it slow and continue to feed them on opposite sides of the door, even if the first introduction is positive.
Once your cats are finally ready to interact, follow these steps to ensure it’s a positive experience:
It’s OK if your cats don’t click initially, some of the best relationships get better with time. However, these tips will help you safely navigate the newly forming feline friendships.
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